DETROIT — Blake Griffin has heard the criticism about him the past few years. Understands it even. But on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Detroit Pistons forward might have showed everyone he’s not “bad” anymore.
<pGriffin had a career-high 50 points in a 133-132 overtime win over Philadelphia, reaching the milestone on a driving layup and-one that also doubled as the game-tying layup and game-winning free throw for the team he was traded to last winter.
<p"You know the past two, three years, all I hear about is how bad I am and I've been hurt, I've had bad games," Griffin said. "But we talked about it. This summer, being able to work out for the first time in three summers is huge, you know. The last three summers I was fighting and working as hard as I could to get healthy to be able to play.
<p"And this summer, I was able to really put time in and work on my game, work on my body and I've always been a big believer in hard work pays off."
<pThat has shown throughout the first three games of Detroit's season, but especially so against Philadelphia. His career-high 50 points was the most by a Pistons player since Rip Hamilton had 51 points on Dec. 27, 2006 against the New York Knicks. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was the first 40-point, 10-rebound game by a Pistons player since Isiah Thomas on Feb. 8, 1983 — when Thomas had 46 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
<pGriffin also tied a career-high with five 3-pointers and set a career mark with 20 field goals. His 50 points are the seventh-most in Pistons history.
<p"He's playing at a high level right now," Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. "Offensively and defensively he's out there talking and making decisions, communicating. He's playing great. Of all the great players I've worked with, Dirk [Nowitzki], Kyle Lowry, Kevin Garnett, Shawn Kemp, all those guys, he's playing at that high level right now.
<p"And he's just one of those guys that is taking it to another level, leading his team, putting them on his back, being a leader in the timeout. But again, that's what we expect from Blake because he is that good of a player."
<pIt started early for Griffin, too. His 28 points in the first half tied the second-highest first half point total in Pistons history – accentuating it with a stretch where he hit a 3-pointer and then followed the next possession with a transition dunk where he faked passing the ball to Andre Drummond and then dunked over two Sixers defenders.
<pIt wasn't necessarily the moment the Pistons knew Griffin was on, but there were times they couldn't help but be awed by his performance – one that could have been better had he not missed his first six free throws.
<p"So what happens is, you don't want to be a spectator because you want to keep playing the game and you got to be ready, because when they start doubling you got to be ready to start shooting the basketball<p"I think last game, the Chicago game, and tonight, you just kind of become a fan and start watching. I started talking trash out there because big bro got it so what's going to happen. Nah, he was special tonight and so you just become a fan. And that was fun to watch."
<pGriffin was dominant throughout Tuesday, a large part of why the Pistons hung with Philadelphia — just like he's been a big reason why Detroit is 3-0 to start the season. The fans noticed, too, showering Griffin with "M-V-P" chants with 3:09 left in regulation when he tied the score at 110 and then again moments later when he gave the Pistons a 111-110 lead.
<pHe put together an MVP-like performance from beginning to end. On the game-winning play, he had the ball around the 3-point line, gave a ball-fake and then drove the right side of the lane to make the layup and get fouled with 1.8 second left, giving him the 50-point mark and the eventual win.
<pThere wasn't a point, though, where he felt like he might be on his way to a big night. He didn't truly feel like he could hit his career high until the free throw went in to give Detroit the lead.
<p"You know, I just never, I've had games where I came out and hit my first five shots and finished with 12 and had games where I missed my first two and finished with 40," Griffin said. "At this point in my career, it's not like a thing where I, throughout the course of the game I'm thinking, oh, let me get this or let me get that, you know.
<p"You just take what comes and you use it."